Timur Kuzu radiates passion when describing his role in serving the military community at Pierce College. A 23-year veteran of the US Air Force, he joined Pierce College in Nov. 2017 as Director of the Veterans Resource Center at the Fort Steilacoom campus.
“I’ve been a servant leader all my life,” he says. “My goal is to make this the best program in the country.”
The Veterans Resource Center provides comprehensive support services for active and retired military students and families. They serve 1,600 military affiliated students between the two campuses, and another 1,100 at Joint Base Lewis McChord (JBLM). In fact, Pierce College ranks among the top two community colleges in Washington State in total number of military enrollees (along with Spokane Community College).
Military students choose Pierce College for many reasons, says Kuzu. “Pierce College is affordable and convenient, with three locations. We also have veterans and dependents on the staff and faculty here. That’s important to welcoming and understanding this unique population.”
The Veterans Resource Center Services provides assistance with housing, jobs, mental health counseling, emergency services, textbooks and much more.
“We connect people with whatever they need, either here or in the community,” says Kuzu. “We genuinely care about our students and it shows. We do everything we can to help them be successful.”
Given his military career, the last five years of which he spent teaching leadership, resiliency and other courses at JBLM, Kuzu has a deep understanding of the military culture and students’ needs.
“I took a six-month break after retiring from the military to figure out what I wanted to do next,” says Kuzu. “I chose non-profit work. I need to do something with a purpose. Taking this job was a natural transition because I went from helping military people on the inside to helping them succeed on the outside.”
Growing up in Turkey in a U.S. military family, Kuzu has lived all over the world. “I was taught to respect everyone, regardless of differences.” He considers himself a “constant learner.” He is a certified instructor in resiliency training, cross-cultural competencies and in recognizing and assisting victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.
Kuzu has some exciting plans on tap to reinvigorate the Veterans Resource Center, based on his research and the feedback he has garnered from students and others. Already underway are the revitalized Veterans Advisory Committee and a hugely successful Resource Fair. He also helped to restart the Student Veterans of America Pierce College chapter.
“This is very exciting,” he says. “It’s student led. As a nationally recognized chapter, we now have access to more grants and scholarships.”
This fall, Kuzu plans to roll out a training and education program for faculty and staff.
“Our veterans are a diverse group — most are married with families and have had worldwide experiences and life and death responsibilities,” he says. “This training will address how staff and faculty can understand their needs and help support their success. It will include training for staff on how to recognize Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and trauma and connect people to treatment.”
Kuzu is also sprucing up the Center’s physical space in the Cascade Building, making it more welcoming and readily identifiable for military students.
“Students walk through the door, it is all in one place, all dedicated to helping them get what they need,” Kuzu says. “I’m going to try to help everyone any way I can. My personal and moral values make it easy.”
Stop by the Veterans Resource Center in the Cascade Building any time for a warm welcome.
Reprinted with permission. See original story on the Pierce College website.